By insisting on a government-run plan, liberals have played right into the hands of Republicans who aim to defeat any reform by mischaracterizing it as a government takeover.
Here's the thing: If Republicans are going to try to defeat any reform by mischaracterizing it as a government takeover, any reform you offer can be said to play into their hands. Their willingness to mischaracterize what you propose means that it doesn't matter what you actually propose; they'll mischaracterize it as a government takeover regardless.
Pearlstein's argument is blame-the-victim nonsense that is typical of the way the media has approached decades of Republican lies. Sure, they'll say, Republicans and the media distorted Al Gore's comments throughout the 2000 election -- but he shouldn't have given them the opening by being imprecise. Nonsense. People who are willing to lie about you and make things up don't need an opening to do so.
But reporters would rather blame the victim than acknowledge who is really to blame: Politicians who spread falsehoods, and the media who repeat them or do a lousy and ineffectual job of correcting them.
Maybe Pearlstein will understand if I put it this way: By Pearlstein's logic, his column opposing a public plan gives me an opening to point out that he's secretly on the payroll of health insurance companies who oppose a public plan.
Except I just made that up. Why would Pearlstein blame himself for something I made up?